Teeth grinding (bruxism)
Teeth grinding (also called bruxism) is often related to stress or anxiety. There are things you can do to help and treatments available from a dentist or GP.
Causes of teeth grinding
It's not always clear what causes people to grind their teeth.
It's often linked to:
- stress and anxiety – this is the most common cause of teeth grinding
- sleep problems like snoring and sleep apnoea
- taking certain medicines, including a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- smoking, drinking lots of alcohol and caffeine, and taking drugs like ecstasy and cocaine
Teeth grinding is common in children and teenagers, particularly during sleep. It often stops when they reach adulthood and their adult teeth have come through.
How to reduce teeth grinding
There are a number of things you can try that may help if you grind your teeth.
find ways to relax – for example, by doing breathing exercises, listening to music and taking regular exercise
try to improve your sleep by going to bed at the same time every night, relaxing before bedtime and making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet
take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen if you have jaw pain or swelling
use an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a tea towel for 20 to 30 minutes to help reduce jaw pain or swelling
have regular dental check-ups
do not smoke
do not drink too much alcohol
do not take drugs like ecstasy or cocaine
do not chew gum or eat hard foods if you have tooth or jaw pain
Symptoms of teeth grinding
Teeth grinding can happen while you're awake or asleep.
As well as grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, other symptoms can include:
- face, neck and shoulder pain
- a painful jaw, which can lead to a condition called temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
- worn-down or broken teeth, which can cause increased sensitivity and loss of teeth and fillings
- disturbed sleep
Non-urgent advice: See a dentist if:
- you grind your teeth and have tooth damage or sensitive teeth
- you grind your teeth and have pain in your jaw, face or ear
- your partner says you're grinding your teeth in your sleep
- you're worried about your child grinding their teeth
See a GP if you need help with some of the causes of teeth grinding, such as stress, anxiety, smoking, drinking too much or taking drugs.
Treatments for teeth grinding
Treatment for teeth grinding is not always needed.
Treatments from a dentist
A dentist may recommend a mouth guard or mouth splint.
These are worn at night and protect your teeth from damage. They can be made by a dentist to fit precisely over your upper or lower teeth
Treatments from a GP
A GP can give you advice and recommend treatments for reducing stress.
They will also be able to help if you want to give up smoking, or if you need advice about drug addiction or cutting down on alcohol.
Page last reviewed: 27 June 2022
Next review due: 27 June 2025